Level-headed moderation needed now in The Birthplace of America

Philadelphia is a great place to live. It has so much, so close-by: history, museums, sports. It’s walkable, livable, has green space. No, it didn’t get Amazon’s HQ2 and yes, it’s often overshadowed by New York and Washington. Too bad it has people in charge who don’t care about serving the public.

This goes along well with what I’ve recently written about liberalism turning so far left, it’s often becoming extremism. (See here, here, here and here.) Of course, Philadelphia is more to the left than the nation as a whole. Let’s see how much.mazzoni center logo

Here is the deal:

Mazzoni Center is the oldest AIDS-service organization in Pennsylvania, and has been “providing innovative and compassionate care and services for people living with HIV since 1981.” That’s according to director of communications Larry Benjamin in a recent column in the newspaper, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), which is the main source of news for Philadelphia’s LGBTQI+ community.

For decades, Mazzoni’s CEO was Nurit Shein, an Israeli woman no longer mentioned on the center’s history page but who undoubtably oversaw the “steady and continued growth” listed on that page:

  • The first HIV testing site in Pennsylvania in 1985.
  • The first sponsored housing for individuals living with HIV in 1986.
  • Opening the region’s first HIV-related food bank in 1989.
  • Opening its primary care medical practice, which has since become a cornerstone of the organization’s services, in 2003.
  • “Today, with more than 35,000 individuals benefiting annually from its services, Mazzoni Center is a leader among community-based organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.”

According to PGN,

“The center has 35,000 clients and an annual budget of $16.5 million, $6 million of which is comprised of federal grants. The balance comes from revenue generated through the health center and private-development funding.”

In other words, the nonprofit gets government money and asks for donations, since it can’t come close to surviving by simply charging its clients or patients fees. This affects all of us.

For example, in Sept. 2010, Mazzoni reported,

“Thanks to a newly created HIV-prevention funding opportunity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mazzoni Center will receive $337,248 annually over the next five years to help continue three of our key intervention projects: HIV counseling, testing and referral services for MSM of color, for which we collaborate with GALAEI (Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative); comprehensive risk-counseling services for HIV-positive or high-risk men to cut down on the risk of future transmission or infection; and our community-outreach program ‘Get Real.’”

In Nov. 2016, it reported,

“Mazzoni Center is pleased to announce it has received an award of $1.5 million through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). The funds are designated to support the purchase and renovation of a Center City building at Broad and Bainbridge Streets, where the agency will relocate and consolidate its core programs and services in summer 2017. …

“The grant demonstrates the growing commitment and collaboration between the State of Pennsylvania and the LGBTQ community,”

and both of these examples of public funding happened, like so much else, under CEO Shein.

But despite so many successes over a generation, not all has been going well at Mazzoni for the past few years.

According to PGN’s Nov. 15 article “Another Mazzoni CEO out — What’s next?”

“Last year, Mazzoni Center was plagued by published reports of systemic racism, mismanagement and dysfunction. In April 2017, Robert Winn resigned as medical director amid charges of sexual misconduct. CEO Nurit Shein was asked by the board of directors to resign later that month, following accusations of delayed action on Winn’s alleged misconduct.”

Then,

“Stephen Glassman stepped in to fill the interim CEO job in July 2017. During his tenure until March, he hired consultants with far-right ties to discourage employees from unionizing, which sparked another controversy. Last September, Mazzoni Center employees nevertheless voted 51-34 to unionize.”

Then, the board of directors hired an executive-search firm which spent five months conducting a nationwide search for the right leader.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino was hired as Mazzoni’s third CEO in less than two years – moving up here from Florida – but she recently resigned after just seven months. It wasn’t due to the heat, weather-wise. The former Floridian was probably used to our mostly warm weather during her short tenure.

No. PGN reported the trouble started right away because Gonzalez Sciarrino is a straight woman! Yes! You read correctly. These are the details you’ll probably find disturbing:

“At the time her hiring was announced in March, she was attacked on social media by Mazzoni Center employees and others demanding her resignation, at least partly due to her non-LGBT status.

“The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative (BBWC), who say they represent nearly 400 workers in Philadelphia, told PGN in a statement in early April, just days after Gonzalez Sciarrino took over as CEO: ‘The days of people who are not from our communities coming in to take up a considerable amount of power in our communities is over,’ said BBWC cofounder Shani Akilah. ‘A white, straight cis woman is not fit to lead Mazzoni, no matter how much experience she claims to have,’ said Akilah. ‘The one thing she does not have and will never be able to have is lived experience.’”

Can you believe that?

Such an outrageous statement about an accomplished woman who the board of directors chose to lead their troubled agency after a long search!

Talk about discrimination, and it happened this year – not just in America, but in The Birthplace of America!

Besides, who gets to pick their boss?

Click here for more of the article including why Gonzalez Sciarrino had to stop driving and start walking to work, always changing her route.

For now, three people will lead.

And days after Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation, PGN reported Mazzoni Center fired its Senior Health and Sexuality Educator for violating its harassment policy. According to the paper,

sloan

“The move follows a series of social-media postings on Sloan’s personal Facebook page since the announcement of CEO Lydia Gonzalez-Sciarrino’s resignation earlier this week. In one public post on Monday, Sloan wrote: ‘This is what happens when you cross me. HAPPY MONDAY BITCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #WEWILLNOTLGBTQUIET’ over a shared article of PGN’s coverage of the CEO’s resignation.

congratulations

“A commenter questioned whether Sloan should be congratulated, to which she replied: ‘Congratulations is absolutely the word. THANK YOU … IM [sic] SO HAPPYYYY.’

will not be quiet

“In another, Sloan shared a second article written about Gonzalez Sciarrino resigning with the hashtags ‘WeWillNotLGBTQuiet’ and ‘#Bih,’ internet slang for bitch.’

“As she left the building on Thursday, witnesses told PGN Sloan shouted out: ‘I got fired by y’all — tell your friends.’

raise hell

“Shortly thereafter, she wrote on her Facebook page, ‘They went and fired me for no reason get ready to raise hell everybody.’”

Makes me wonder what kind of people work at Mazzoni!

A PGN editorial, “Social media and public officials,” said,

“Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, had opinions on the resignation of its executive director, Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino, and posted those opinions on social media.

“When we called her for a clarification and asked whether she was representing her own views or the views in her capacity as a representative for the mayor, she stated: ‘This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.’”

That PGN editorial concluded, “The issue boils down to whether a non-LGBT person can run an organization that serves primarily LGBT people,” and the newspaper has spoken out against discrimination like that before.

In this particular case, it wondered based on Hikes’ social media posts, “Is her view personal or administration policy?”

That’s the question I – as a Philadelphia citizen – wanted answered. I even asked about public officials using their own social media accounts while supposedly working for the public, developing policy for the mayor.

Remember the name Amber Hikes, because this post is mostly about her. Shortly, you’ll read the Facebook faceoff we engaged in, and the letter she asked me to send – containing a bunch of questions – she never bothered to answer. You’ll also see several of her tweets containing profanities, and how her support of certain people – and disregard of others – are a prime example of the left gone too far.

PGN reported in March, 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney appointed her executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs.

mazzoni on hikes job
I’ll bet Mazzoni Center management changed its tune on Hikes not long after the mayor hired her!

Therefore, she works for the city but you’ll find no brotherly love coming from her (except for her boss, the mayor) and little sisterly affection.

Hikes had lived in Philadelphia for more than a decade but moved to California more than a year before her appointment at City Hall. That’s when she told PGN,

“‘When I arrived in Philadelphia about 11 years ago, I was a young, black queer woman seeking people who looked like me who loved like me and frankly, the next decade of my life, [I was] just living, studying, working and trying to build that community that I was seeking,’ Hikes said. ‘I noticed these multiple identities that were reflected in the intersections of so many of our underserved citizens.’”

And apparently those are the only people Hikes cares about.

For example, on Aug. 20, Gonzalez Sciarrino fired Kay Martinez, who was Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. That caused an estimated 50 people to walk out to protest the firing. Among those protesters was no other than Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. I’ll get into the contradiction shortly.

According to a written statement from the Mazzoni Center that PGN published Aug. 30,

“‘The reason for Kay Martinez’s termination was disagreement with the Mazzoni Center management team that resulted in unprofessional conduct that was inconsistent for someone in their role,’ according to Mazzoni’s written statement. ‘We believe the facts, when communicated in the appropriate forum, will be obvious proof that we could not continue the employment of Martinez, a high-level director.’”

In the same article, PGN reported Martinez “filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and publicly accused Mazzoni Center of wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination,” and accused Gonzalez-Sciarrino of lacking “LGBTQ and trans competency.”

“Gonzalez-Sciarrino took on an ally role once she became the leader of an LGBTQ organization. There needs to be a demonstration of a high level of LGBTQ competency, no matter who it is,” said Martinez. “I’m not saying this heterosexual, cisgendered Latina person has no business being there — it’s about her level of LGBTQ competency. I had to educate the CEO on what my pronouns were and how to properly use the they/them pronouns, and that displayed a very significant trans incompetency.”

I wasn’t there, don’t know what really happened and have not heard about a resolution. Besides, most of us use he/him pronouns for someone who looks male, and she/her for someone who looks female. With so much diversity in the LGBTQI+ community, how could someone look at someone else and automatically know which pronouns they prefer? Even Harry Houdini wouldn’t be able to get out of that one!

But we know Hikes walked out over the firing.

PGN’s editorial stated,

“She (Hikes) injected herself into this latest firestorm (Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation), as she has with others on social media.”

So the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs has had problems on social media before.

The editorial ended,

“Right before presstime, Hikes did clarify that the statements are ‘on my personal Facebook so yes, I’m speaking personally.’”

Of course, I got interested and looked at her Facebook page. That was last Tuesday, Nov. 20. This is what I found:

ashley love

So at least one of her Facebook friends, apparently not from Philadelphia, was very interested in Gonzalez Sciarrino’s three replacements, and wanted to make sure at least one was of what she considered the proper race, and trans, rather than cis.

Remember, the Mazzoni Center survives on public, taxpayer money – plus the generosity of some individual members of the public. Tens of thousands of people’s health, and other people’s jobs, depend on the place running smoothly. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money and a huge shame after so many people worked for so long, so Mazzoni could offer groundbreaking programs.

See that Facebook friend’s response before my question, which I decided should be about a large group of individuals never once mentioned in the resignation matter: men!

Amber Hikes

You can see I was attacked and also who her Facebook friends are by the number of thumbs-up quickly praising her for acting strong and attacking me. (Who your friends are tells a lot about you.) But I thought this public servant was out of line and didn’t give up, explaining myself further, using her tone against her, and then mentioning the mayor.

all lives matter

My letter makes a good point about her sentence starting with “Yes my boss.” So before going to bed, she made a more disgraceful assumptions and remarks, but invited me to send an email to her office, which I did.

(It appears since then, Hikes made her personal Facebook account private, and after that shut it down. Good move for somebody who was documented as having injected herself into multiple firestorms on social media!)

I spent the next morning crafting this exact letter to Hikes, emailed it midday, and cc’ed Mayor Kenney, whom Hikes spoke for and answers to:

email header 1

Hi, Ms. Hikes! I’m a citizen of Philadelphia, on and off for 20 years on Thanksgiving (tomorrow, by coincidence).

You’ll no doubt remember last night, I wrote, asking you a question. I had just finishing reading PGN‘s latest article on the saga of the Mazzoni Center, and you said to “Feel free to shoot an email … with your grievances.”

Here it is.

I don’t expect detailed answers to every question I’m putting forth here, but would appreciate general explanations about some of the things you’ve said, and some of the ways I feel.

You were quoted in the front-page article “Another Mazzoni CEO Out — What’s Next?” (Nov. 16 edition, https://www.epgn.com/news/breaking-news/13993-another-mazzoni-ceo-out-what-s-next) as saying:

·       “lived experience” qualifies a leader for an organization that deals with marginalized communities.

·       “I think that personal, lived experience with those communities is essential to be able to serve them appropriately” … “In the same way that I think it is appropriate for a black person to lead Black Lives Matter, it is appropriate for a woman to lead the National Organization of Women, I think it’s appropriate for an LGBT person to lead an LGBTQ center.”

Actually, while proofreading before publishing this post, I realized she must’ve meant the The National Organization for Women, not of Women, and she should know better.

I also just realized the NAACP was formed in 1909 as a bi-racial endeavor – not a black organization – to advance justice for African-Americans.

Seems I know more than Ms. Hikes on some aspects of women and African-Americans! It also disproves her last point. But as you may have imagined, there’s plenty more…

That first statement leads me to wonder what qualifications the leader of an organization that deals with marginalized communities should have? If “lived experience” is a requirement, then are there others? If not, then how does “lived experience” qualify compared to other qualifications? Could it simply be a tie-breaker?

That second statement, dealing with demographics, leads me to wonder, “Do you think it was appropriate for President Obama to lead (what was) a majority white nation?” Also, do you feel that’s OK when it comes to labor laws?

Then, the newspaper’s editorial (https://www.epgn.com/opinion/editorials/14003-social-media-and-public-officials) quoted you when they contacted you as saying, “This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.”

That statement sounds to me like something President Trump would say to the media, not “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia,” as it says in your biography (https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/). Would you mind sharing what else was going on the day PGN contacted you? (I’ll be happy to help clear things up with them by forwarding your answer, if you’d like.)

(I don’t agree with PGN’s opinion 100 percent and don’t think anybody in the world can, since it tries to give opposing points of view and make us think. I would suggest a few changes to the newspaper but will not question its original reporting. As for any agenda, after decades as a reader, I will suggest it’s the betterment of the LGBTQI+ community in every way, in Philadelphia and around the world. I take that to mean equality and peace.)

Your use of personal social media while serving the public made news, and it was also news to me that it had made news before. (Editorial: “She injected herself into this latest firestorm, as she has with others on social media.”) Therefore, I became curious.

Also, you chose to have your Facebook account’s privacy setting open to the public (or did not pay attention) which has apparently led to some news and definitely led me to read, which was my right. This morning, I saw that setting had changed and I’m sure you understand the consequences of libel, should that be the case, considering your response to me last night. You know what’s on the Internet tends to stay there. You should also know I always jealously protect my good name, with legal counsel on hand for a situation exactly two weeks ago (Nov. 7). I’ll ask you to make sure any defamatory reference to me on your Facebook timeline is gone, after you respond to me.

I don’t think you treated my questions, and definitely my point, fairly. I was intrigued when I read this comment to your post on Mazzoni, and the probing answers and replies that followed.

ashley love

When I saw the response that followed, from somebody whose Facebook profile says she is “based in Washington DC and California” rather than any mention of Philadelphia, and considering how you answered her, I decided to ask you about this story making news.

I decided to use gender as the basis of my question, because it had not been brought up, and because PGN reported in its news article, “The three new leaders are Medical Director Dr. Nancy Brisbon, Care Services Director Alicia Manley and Chief Financial Officer Racquel Assaye” – all women.

I even called out my own questions as among the “knit-picking” ones! I wanted to make a point.

Let’s say your response to me was different than above, not so nice, and falsely accusatory.

Amber Hikes

I’ll point out, right off the bat, your response to me was absolutely rude. You tried to make it clear you don’t work for Mazzoni, using emojis between every word. Of course not. You’re “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.”

Then, you used the phrases “is exactly what we need” and “is moving us in that direction.” Does that sound like a politician with an interest in the center, or something more that may cross a line? It definitely makes your relationship sound different than your first sentence (“I don’t work for Mazzoni,” emoji, emoji, emoji).

But you were one of the people who “participated in a walk-out to protest the firing” (according to the PGN article) of Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. How could you walk out if you don’t work there, and how could you protest as a city official? I don’t get it, either way.

If you say you were simply standing by the non-management workers there, please realize I’ve been a member of two unions and shop steward at one. I have absolutely no problems with unions, and in fact encourage workers to unionize. Collective bargaining is probably the only way for them to have a voice in working conditions and we are lucky Pennsylvania has not turned the way of Michigan under previous gubernatorial leadership here.

However, the treatment of the patients is the reason Mazzoni exists, and the reason members of the public donate money to keep it running and more. I completely understand the workers walking out if they were ordered to do something morally wrong or illegal. (I chose to leave one job under similar circumstances.) Otherwise, they were probably putting their jobs and even the treatment of their patients on the line.

You also accused me of being sexist, but that is not true in any way. There are women I turn to as mentors for advice, including whether I could be considered one for something I said, did, or believed. Again, I was simply adding one more facet of humanity to the discussion that had not been mentioned: gender. If instead, I had mentioned religion, age or national origin, would you have accused me of “ageist nonsense” and the like?

I don’t know the three Mazzoni leaders’ religions, ages or national origins, and unlike so many others, I’m not asking. It should really be nobody’s concern (except possibly for government employment forms), unless the people involved choose to share that information. Anything else sounds like a quota system and that’s wrong, whether it’s aiming for a number higher or lower than the current number – especially on employment issues where there may be legal concerns and you represent the city of Philadelphia.

Right now, I’m doing as you suggested and emailing you with the address you gave. If you didn’t notice on top, I’m also taking this moment to make sure you know this email is not private since I’m cc’ing your boss, Mayor Jim Kenney, because you called All Lives Matter (a phrase I never used) “nonsense.”

all lives matter

Thanks, but I don’t need you to put words in my mouth.

Mr. Mayor, Would you agree it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, realizing I never brought up that phrase to Ms. Hikes?

Also, should your appointee be answering a constituent as a “black, queer woman” or as a public servant? If you do think she answered appropriately, then do you answer constituents as a “straight white male of Irish descent?”

Ms. Hikes, considering your statement it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, please put in order the amount that these people’s lives matter (in general, not a specific person, and feel free to add any I may have forgotten, or combine any):

white
black
different race
male
female
different gender
lesbian
gay
bisexual
transgender
queer
questioning
intersex
allies

I don’t know about you but I think there is too much division in this country, and a lot of it comes from people treating their fellow Americans as less than them. But on the other hand, others like the ones you responded to cling to very, very specific classifications – and caused me to write.

Right now, our country is divided over so many personal issues. I think concentrating on very, very specific classifications for a job (or three specific jobs) – three of the four (Black, Latina, trans and woman) written by your Facebook friend in the comment, and brown written by you in your first reply to that person – adds to the divisiveness.

The LGBT community is already a minority of the population. Labeling more and more differences separates us, and makes us a tiny minority of a minority of the population. How many people will qualify if you add in religion, age and national origin (oh, and “lived experience”)?

All people are created in the image of God, and automatically entitled to equal human and civil rights. That should be practiced by everyone including the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, your biography on your city office’s website https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/ says you set your “sights on fighting and advocating for the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community—specifically youth, transgender people, and people of color.” I take that to mean not the LGBT community as in your city office’s title, but only certain subsets. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Then, a few paragraphs later: “Hikes believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work.” Does that mean filtering people and deciding how worthy they are of the city’s help, using the words from your Facebook post above?

Office of LGBT Affairs

Remember, the top of the page which sounds like a job description reads, “City of Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs: Serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.” I take that to mean the city’s goal for the office. “The LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia,” from the city, sounds quite different than your quote, “most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community.” Again, correct me if I’m wrong with this distinction.

And does the city’s use of the word “inclusion” regarding the office you lead refer to all elements of the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia or just the ones mentioned in your biography?

You know none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I spent years teaching that quote to elementary schoolchildren. I think that concise quote best describes what all of us should want for the future of the world, and these days can go beyond “the color of their skin.”

We, collectively, have vastly different experiences. Much of it is due, as I said, to the fact none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born. But then to read what you wrote last night, “that we need to see more black and brown trans women in leadership in our organizations,” has me questioning your devotion to all members of the LGBTQI+ community in your role as “executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia … serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.”

As a city resident, homeowner, and taxpayer – as well as member of the LGBTQI+ community – I want to know how you represent me.

Am I wrong for asking?

Also, do you feel the demographic issue taking such a major role in the Mazzoni saga is turning moderates such as myself to the right, which would probably be the last thing you want politically?

Thank you in advance for your more thoughtful answers this time around.

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia

I hope you thought the letter was well-written, informative and asked good questions. I don’t know whether Mayor Jim Kenney or his hand-picked executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, Amber Hikes, feel that way.

Neither of them bothered to respond!

That’s ironic since when Hikes was hired, PGN reported a city spokesperson had said,

“There was a very vocal need for someone to be more outward-facing and more community-engagement-based.”

So Tuesday, I forwarded them this second email:

email header 2

Ms. Hikes and Mr. Mayor,

Tomorrow will be one week since I wrote to both of you and I have not received any sort of answer, much less acknowledgement, to my questions and concerns from either of you.

Public servants need to be available to be effective, kind of like journalists. I’ve been one of those for a couple of decades.

Furthermore, I’m wondering if I’m the first person to ask you these questions because if not, then you could’ve probably given me canned answers you’ve already given others.

I plan to blog on this disgrace (at least so far) so thousands around the world know what I consider the craziness and favoritism that goes on in Philadelphia, and how my inquiry has been ignored (so far). It’s all unfortunate.

I’ll include your entire, unedited answers in my post tomorrow, especially from Ms. Hikes, who had time to immediately respond to her personal-but-public (but last I checked, private) Facebook account at odd hours last Tuesday, Nov. 20. I’ll also include my letter.

Please inform me. That shouldn’t be too hard for decision-makers with your titles and powers in such a big city, right? Even Gmail “nudged” me to follow-up, as if I needed to be reminded.

Gmail nudge

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia citizen and taxpayer

I’m ashamed of the politics that goes on in this great city and sometimes ask myself why I don’t move just over the line, where there is no city wage tax that takes more money from paychecks than the state’s income tax does. Productive people don’t seem to be valued.

As for the Mazzoni Center, its volunteer board of directors is about to become a whole lot different. Five of the 17 will resign. According to PGN, the reason is lack of enough diversity among a board with this membership: “Five are women, six are people of color and eight are white men.”

Board president Chris Pope told the paper,

“Many of our legacy board members have served for 13 years, and now it’s time to make space for new faces, new voices and new perspectives. Diversifying our board has been a major focus for some time now and we are looking for prospective candidates that will bring a fresh outlook as we move the organization forward.”

We’ve been through Facebook. Yesterday, I wondered if Ms. Hikes had a Twitter account, and boy does she!

I hate to say it, but notice the vulgarities from this public servant on this forum. I haven’t published anything like this since my post on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.

These were all her personal tweets. None of them were retweeted from somebody else. I’m going in chronological order, starting just over a year ago, and any underlining in red is mine. I chose words I think she should not have used, or used in the way she did. It’s unbecoming for someone in her role. At least I think so.

kenney kicking ass

gloria residences damn

pgn person of year
Hikes was actually PGN’s “Person of the Year” for last year! I hope the paper reviewed its reasoning. I think the “Creep of the Week” column it features in every issue would be more fitting now.
who is left after so many eliminations
Divisive: Is anybody left when you leave out men, white, cis, able-bodied, documented, straight, and economically-privileged? Read into that last category as you want.

old flag iconic symbol

The rainbow flag colors “reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.” That means it’s an abstraction of everybody, and just a skin deep representation because nobody in real life actually looks like any of the colors. It represented ‘pride’ in Philadelphia until June 2017, when Hikes

“officially added black and brown stripes atop the city’s pride flag — making Philadelphia the first city to do so — to recognize people of color who had long felt excluded. … Hikes views the new flag as a way to start conversations about race and identity, particularly with white people who have not experienced the same disparate treatment as people of color — and may be reluctant to believe it exists.”

Talk about pettiness and simple-minded people separating themselves from others when they’re supposed to be coming together, uniting as one!

rainbow with extras

The Philly.com article goes on to say,

“Some people suggested there should be a white stripe, and the New York Post declared that the flag had divided Philadelphia’s gay community.”

And speaking of coming together, uniting as one: Months earlier, in Jan. 2017, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

“found widespread reports of racial tension and discrimination in the neighborhood (the Gayborhood), which often touts its inclusivity. … The report noted that dress codes, ID policies, bar service and treatment of staff can vary depending on the patron or employee, which perpetuates discrimination.”

Because of that, it forced 11 bars and two nonprofits – the Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia FIGHT – to take part in fair business practice training within 90 days and implicit bias training within 120 days. Did places frequented mostly by straight people face the same requirements? Do you think those establishments, including neighboring ones, are any better?

The Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., a black former mayor of Philadelphia who sits on the board of FIGHT, told Philly.com,

“He was shocked to see the organization named in the report. He said he was skeptical about the thoroughness of the vetting process.

“‘Philadelphia FIGHT is probably one of the most diverse organizations in the city,’ Goode said. He called the organization’s CEO, Jane Shull, a champion of equality in the workplace. ‘I do not believe anyone could write that who investigated, who read the personnel plan, who knew what they were talking about.’”

pence hell

trans flag damn

curse at trans event
Cover the top and just show your kids the colorful pictures. Somebody may have forgotten more and more members of the LGBTQI+ community are becoming parents.
tweet on phila lawyer
So high on herself! Can you find Hikes on the cover? Wonder why she doesn’t show herself gracing the cover in her tweet? #exaggeration
phila lawyer cover
https://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/ThePhiladelphiaLawyer

politics after election

So citizens of Philadelphia: Do you think there is any more to this woman than vulgarity, divisiveness and unresponsiveness? Is this appropriate from one of our city leaders? Should Hikes be sent her walking papers?

contact info

This is the contact information for both Ms. Hikes and Mayor Kenney, taken from their pages on the city’s website. Please take a few moments to share your feelings with them (and maybe get a response!), but also the city council member for your district, and don’t forget all seven council members at-large, at the bottom of the webpage.

(Click here if you don’t know who your district’s city council member is. You’ll see a map, where you can type in your address, and their name will come up.)

In Feb. 2017, the city started a Commission on LGBT Affairs, calling it

“a 23-member body that will advise the Mayor on policies that support the lives of LGBT individuals in the city and support and amplify the work of the Office of LGBT Affairs. … The members reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, which includes transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer communities, as well as diversity in ethnicity, religion, race, gender, disability, profession, citizenship status, socioeconomic status, geography, housing status and age.”

Hikes, still the newly-appointed LGBT Affairs executive director back then, said,

“I look forward to serving with this vibrant team as we address the needs of our community and elevate the voices of our most underserved community members.”

But Sharron Cooks, the chair of the newly created commission – and also the first transgender person ever to chair a city commission, according to Philadelphia Magazine – was voted out in May, after just six weeks.

The magazine reported,

G Philly was sent documentation from the meeting that raised concerns surrounding Cooks’s social media interactions with members of one of the commission’s committees.

“‘The emergency meeting was basically centered around complaints that Commissioner Amanda Dougherty made about Sharron targeting her in various social media posts she made this past weekend,’ said a commissioner present during the meeting who asked not to be named. ‘Dougherty provided the commission with multiple screenshots of Facebook posts where Sharron indirectly called her out for being a white bisexual woman taking up space in the community affairs committee.’”

Sounds too much like Amber Hikes with social media. And President Trump.

Like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there has to be another revolutionary change in leaders here in Philadelphia. Click here for directions on registering to vote.

If you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like thisthis and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, justice and becoming a Justice

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be giving the Senate Judiciary Committee calendars from 1982 to back up his continued denial of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford. That’s according to The New York Times, late Sunday afternoon.

The year 1982 was 36 years ago. Do you have your calendar from back then? Heck, were you even alive back then? (I was and I remember, but my calendar situation was mainly my parents’ responsibility at that time.) At least Judge Kavanaugh can’t say his was accidentally deleted from wherever we keep our calendars, these days. On the other hand, looks like we’ll be keeping our calendars forever!

two men holding pen and calendar sitting beside table
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I explained in a lawsuit about 17-18 years ago (half the time since 1982?!) – when I mentioned plans and the other side immediately asked for my calendar – they’re good for some things and not for others. Calendars will tell what your plans were when you wrote (or saved) them. They were your intentions. Calendars won’t tell whether you actually followed through with the plans or changed them. Maybe you got sick.

(“So as I told you, despite what my old calendar said, no, I didn’t go to a movie with my friend Harry, that night!”)

Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Anyway, the calendar is supposed to help with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial, at least to some degree.

Let’s see. He was born in 1965. (Damn! All these “old” people’s birth years are getting closer and closer to mine!)

Dr. Blasey Ford is expected to testify in an open hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Click here for details on the conditions requested and what to expect, at least at this point. Just don’t swear by it under oath, since things are changing.

Kavanaugh graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and clerked for some other federal judges. He actually interviewed for a clerkship with then-Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, but was denied. Instead, he clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement led to Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace him.

Justice Neil Gorsuch
Justice Neil Gorsuch

During that clerkship, he worked alongside Neil Gorsuch (born 1967!). He and now-Justice Gorsuch attended the same prep school! Small world.

SIDEBAR: Remember, Justice Gorsuch’s nomination came after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, who remains Chief Judge of the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, where Kavanaugh has been a Circuit Judge since 2006! Again, small world.

But the Republican-controlled Senate never took up Judge Garland’s nomination.

BACK TO THE STORY: You’ll remember, President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia. He was 49 and the youngest (successful) nominee to the Supreme Court since none other than Clarence Thomas! Justice Thomas was 43, back in 1991. You may remember, his nomination proceedings to replace the retiring Thurgood Marshall (quota?) were contentious from the start over the issue of abortion and Thomas’ conservative political views.

Then and now: Clarence Thomas at the EEOC (1989–1990), and as a Supreme Court Justice

Whose name is missing from that last paragraph? Law Professor Anita Hill, of course!

She’d worked under Thomas at the U.S. Education Department and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It wasn’t until the end of Thomas’ confirmation hearings that her behavior allegations against Thomas were leaked to National Public Radio’s Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg (still on the job!) from a confidential FBI report. I think we have déjà vu.

SIDEBAR: Just wondering if any of the TV networks have correspondents who focus on the Supreme Court. I remember in 1991 when NBC News took Carl Stern off the air after decades on the SCOTUS beat. It was pointed out that left nobody exclusively covering one of the three branches of our government, gathering sources for NBC. You can read more about the decision-making and see some familiar names (to us old people) in this Washington Post article. Stern, a lawyer, is now George Washington University’s Emeritus Professor of Media and Public Affairs.

1991 Anita Hill
Prof. Anita Hill (1991)

BACK TO THE STORY: Many of us actually learned the phrase “sexual harassment” during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill frenzy. Hill – a Yale Law School graduate and University of Oklahoma law professor – testified a mutual friend introduced her to Thomas. Then, he asked if she’d leave a private firm and work as his assistant at the Department of Education. After being happy for three months, he asked her to go out with him socially and everything changed when she told him it wouldn’t be right, since she was her supervisor. (I’m summarizing her statement from that same link above, sure to bring back memories for us older folk.)

“I thought that by saying ‘no’ and explaining my reasons, my employer would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the following few weeks he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying “no” to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.

“My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects or he might suggest that because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid.

“He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises, or large breasts involved in various sex acts.

“On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all, and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters, such as his background or his beliefs. My efforts to change the subject were rarely successful.”

Then, Prof. Hill testified,

“During the latter part of my time at the Department of Education, the social pressures and any conversation of his offensive behavior ended. I began both to believe and hope that our working relationship could be a proper, cordial, and professional one. When Judge Thomas was made chair of the EEOC, I needed to face the question of whether to go with him. I was asked to do so and I did. The work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures, which had so troubled me, had ended. I also faced the realistic fact that I had no alternative job. While I might have gone back to private practice, perhaps in my old firm, or at another, I was dedicated to civil rights work and my first choice was to be in that field. Moreover, at that time the Department of Education, itself, was a dubious venture. President Reagan was seeking to abolish the entire department.”

There were no problems for her first few months.

“However, during the fall and winter of 1982, these began again. The comments were random, and ranged from pressing me about why I didn’t go out with him, to remarks about my personal appearance. I remember him saying that ‘some day I would have to tell him the real reason that I wouldn’t go out with him.’

“He began to show displeasure in his tone and voice and his demeanor in his continued pressure for an explanation. He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive. The incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.

“One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table, at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?’

“On other occasions he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex. At this point, late 1982,1 began to feel severe stress on the job. I began to be concerned that Clarence Thomas might take out his anger with me by degrading me or not giving me important assignments. I also thought that he might find an excuse for dismissing me.

“In January 1983, I began looking for another job. I was handicapped because I feared that if he found out he might make it difficult for me to find other employment, and I might be dismissed from the job I had.

“Another factor that made my search more difficult was that this was during a period of a hiring freeze in the Government. In February 1983, I was hospitalized for 5 days on an emergency basis for acute stomach pain which I attributed to stress on the job. Once out of the hospital. I became more committed to find other employment and sought further to minimize my contact with Thomas.”

Hill ended up taking a job at Oral Roberts University.

“The dean of the university saw me teaching and inquired as to whether I would be interested in pursuing a career in teaching, beginning at Oral Roberts University. I agreed to take the job, in large part, because of my desire to escape the pressures I felt at the EEOC due to Judge Thomas.

“When I informed him that I was leaving in July, I recall that his response was that now, I would no longer have an excuse for not going out with him. I told him that I still preferred not to do so. At some time after that meeting, he asked if he could take me to dinner at the end of the term. When I declined, he assured me that the dinner was a professional courtesy only and not a social invitation. I reluctantly agreed to accept that invitation but only if it was at the very end of a working day.

“On, as I recall, the last day of my employment at the EEOC in the summer of 1983, I did have dinner with Clarence Thomas. We went directly from work to a restaurant near the office. We talked about the work that I had done both at Education and at the EEOC. He told me that he was pleased with all of it except for an article and speech that I had done for him while we were at the Office for Civil Rights. Finally he made a comment that I will vividly remember. He said, that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career. This was not an apology, nor was it an explanation. That was his last remark about the possibility of our going out, or reference to his behavior.”

In case you were wondering (and who of a certain age wasn’t?), further discussions of pornographic videos Thomas had allegedly rented, including the now-famous Long Dong Silver, must’ve happened during questioning or cross-examination.1991 arlen specter

Anyway, members of the Judiciary Committee didn’t treat Prof. Hill very nicely. For reasons we don’t know and can only imagine, two women who made statements supporting Prof. Hill to Senate staffers never testified.

Then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D) was committee chair. The late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican, gave Prof. Hill an especially hard time.

“Professor Hill, now that you have read the FBI report, you can see that it contains no reference to any mention of Judge Thomas’ private parts or sexual prowess or size, et cetera, and my question to you would be, on something that is as important as it is in your written testimony and in your responses to Senator Biden, why didn’t you tell the FBI about that?”

Déjà vu, once again.

“Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex, correct?”

And then the former Philadelphia D.A. asked,

“What went through your mind, if anything, on whether you ought to come forward at that stage, because if you had, you would have stopped this man from being head of the EEOC perhaps for another decade? What went on through your mind? I know you decided not to make a complaint, but did you give that any consideration, and, if so, how could you allow this kind of reprehensible conduct to go on right in the headquarters, without doing something about it?”

You can see and hear some other lowlights in these clips:

2018-02-05 Anita Hill Gage Skidmore
Feb. 8, 2018: Prof. Anita Hill (by Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia)

Thomas denied everything and called the hearing a type of “high tech lynching.”

As we know, the nomination was moved to the full, Democratic-controlled, Senate, and Thomas was narrowly confirmed, 52-48.

Despite the Déjà vu, those were accusations of sexual harassment. The allegation against Kavanaugh is attempted rape.

Kavanaugh denies it happened, but he has had confirmation trouble before. In 2003, when President George W. Bush (#43) nominated him for his current job – Circuit Judge for the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit – it took him three years to get approved! He was considered too partisan and wasn’t sworn in until 2006.

Let’s not forget Judge Kavanaugh already has a job for life. Every federal judge does. It says so in the Constitution.

gavel judge

In fact, I got called for federal jury duty back in 1995, while producing afternoon and early evening coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial for WSVN in Miami. This was just before the L.A. jury was going to deliberate the verdict and we potential Miami jurors were warned, our case could last weeks.

I was angry after waiting a whole day in the courtroom doing nothing. Finally, we were questioned and I told off a federal judge using the line, “You have a job for life but I have to earn mine every day!” (You’re welcome again, Patrick and Alice!)

At the end, they divided everyone up into groups. Those in my group were very happy to be there, even though the judge hadn’t announced which group would get to go home, have to come back, etc. (Yes, we got sent home for good.) What I won’t do for a job!

So Judge Kavanaugh will not get any more job security if he is confirmed. He will just get more publicity as a justice on the nation’s highest court. (Would you still want that?) And the opportunity to influence the entire country. Also, don’t forget the ability to sell more books further into the future. Plus, maybe a movie, The Notorious B.M.K. (His middle name is Michael.)

Nina Totenberg
Nina Totenberg (NPR)

In 1987, President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of the movie mentioned in the last paragraph) to the High Court ended with his withdrawal nine days after it was announced. Judge Ginsburg, 41, was President Reagan’s second choice after the Senate refused to confirm Judge Robert Bork.

The reason was NPR’s good ‘ol Nina Totenberg  found out Ginsburg had used marijuana “on a few occasions” as a student in the 1960s and as a Harvard Law assistant professor in the 1970s.

That was a big deal at the time. President Reagan ended up nominating David Souter and not long after, President George H.W. Bush (#41) nominated Anthony Kennedy, who – again – is retiring now. But the way the FBI conducted background checks changed forever, causing a lot of other people to have to answer questions about whether they’d experimented with smoking pot.

Judge Ginsburg continues to serve as a Senior Circuit Judge in that same Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, I’ve already mentioned twice. No more ‘small world’ reference. It’s getting late and two pieces of more important news just happened.

Of course, a background check is different than investigating a person who is under suspicion of a crime, but the FBI does that for the president, in order to avoid an embarrassment like the Judge Ginsburg incident. Investigations are not left to people appointed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as was recently suggested, because that’s obviously political.

Rachel Maddow wikipedia
Rachel Maddow

Maybe this will again change the questions that candidates for high positions, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate, will have to answer. The questions will have to be more specific than whether somebody sniffed glue in high school, which was one of the additions after the Judge Ginsburg incident, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow showed!

Let’s stop for a moment and recognize the stories uncovered by these two female journalists.

Perhaps new questions to be asked as soon as the Kavanaugh case ends will include dates of every “base” achieved ending in loss of virginity, as the analogy has gone, which could be a threat to the privacy of willing and non-willing second parties.

Perhaps it will be the height of the #MeToo movement because it could uncover old crimes committed by men who are supposedly upstanding citizens these days. That would be an important lesson to young men with high career hopes, but probably not amount to anything because no president would nominate anybody so much more prone to rejection rather than confirmation.

And we’d never know who they are.

Besides, how many men, in addition to more women these days, would be considered 100 percent innocent of any coming-of-age antics that has probably been around since just after the introduction of the world’s oldest profession?

That brings me to a point somebody – I forgot who – brought up on Facebook last week, probably in a meme.

What about the thousands of victims of priest sexual abuse, just the ones right here in this country? They didn’t speak up right away, for obvious reasons. Should their stories not be heard, even if there’s a statute of limitations to prevent criminal charges?

Then why are people calling for a vote on Judge Kavanaugh before hearing from Dr. Blasey Ford? Should Prof. Hill have not been heard, all those years ago?

According to the York (Pa.) Daily Record, last Monday – less than a week ago – a Pittsburgh-area man and Catholic school kindergartner filed a class action suit as lead plaintiffs,

“seeking the full disclosure of all Catholic dioceses’ records concerning sexual abuse by priests. …

“The complaint notes that the recent grand jury report that identified 301 predatory priests in Pennsylvania (click here to see all 1356 pages) ‘emphasized it did not believe the report identified all predator priests and that many victims never came forward.’

“‘Lack of a complete accounting and disclosure … constitutes a clear and present danger,’ the suit concludes.”

So while Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gets ready to testify against Judge Kavanaugh this Thursday, I’ll close with two pieces of news just in and can’t be ignored as I was about to publish:

First, The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer are reporting “Senate Democrats are investigating another allegation of sexual misconduct against” Judge Kavanaugh, this one dating from his time as an undergraduate at Yale.”

According to Axios,

“The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh waved his penis in front of her face while she was inebriated at a dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic school year. She told Farrow and Mayer that she believes an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s actions is warranted.”

Judge Kavanaugh’s response:

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”

And from White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec:

“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

On the Judiciary Committee: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Christine Blasey Ford
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Then, “just minutes” after that accusation, according to Axios,

“The office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley released the unredacted initial letter” Dr. Blasey Ford “sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in July detailing her account of the (alleged) incident” that both Dr. Blasey Ford and Sen. Feinstein expected to remain confidential.

It’s out and you can read it here.

To me, it looks like another alleged victim has just been betrayed.

Folks, will this ever end?

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